SKATEBOARDING.3D by Sebastian Denz

Gabriel Engelke--Switch Ollie, Marseille 2006.

denz_skateboarding3d_scene03-gabrielengelke_isocoatedv2It's an odd thing how collective thinking can create a wave-like zeitgeist (no, not the conspiracy movie). Whether it's a case of synchronicity (no, not the album) or coincidence, the whole world is going ga-ga for 3D (even though it’s been around for a long time). And, as with a lot of things, skateboarding lensmen, adopted the technology at the early stages of this re-emergance. Filmer Erik Bragg read up on how to make a 3D video camera and built himself one to work on Krooked Skateboard's forthcoming 3D video KROOK3D (see our Behind the Scenes feature here). But, before that, Sebastian Denz, photographer and long-time supporter of Carhartt Skateboarding, was across the pond constructing his own photographic camera. The results became his photography book SKATEBOARDING.3D. It’s heavy on jargon, but for all you future filmers and photographers out there--or anyone else interested--learn how Denz brought three dimensions into his skateboard photography. And, if you’ve got any sitting around, grab your 3D glasses and have a look.

Continued from Small Talk in our May 2010 Issue.

How did you come up with the idea to do a 3D book of skateboarding?
I have always been especially interested in the various modalities of "space" as a human system of reference, so in 2005 after some years of experiments and smaller projects with spatial photography, I decided it was time to work on a more intense project and I really wanted to do a book. I've been involved with skateboarding for over twenty years, and it remained deeply rooted in me to this day--something I'm very grateful for. So I wanted to give something back… SKATEBOARDING.3D is my way to provide some different insight into our strongly differentiated and codified skateboarding culture. It's dedicated to skateboarding.

Olly Todd--Transfer Ollie, London 2007.

denz_skateboarding3d_scene18-ollytodd_isocoatedv2Was there a particular camera that you needed for the project?
Yes, my friend the custom camera specialist, Dr. Kurt Gilde, built a special 8 √-- 10 inch large-format-stereo-camera for this project.

According to Vilém Flusser, the person and the apparatus are a functional unit. The apparatus does what the photographer wants to, and the photographer can only do what the apparatus' program permits. Since I wanted to produce particularly detailed and "informative" pictures--meaning, images that have never been seen before--which would also be three-dimensional images of motion, I had to take the leap to a "meta-program," which involved making my own apparatus. I had the idea of constructing an "improbable" stereo photography camera that would use 8 x 10-inch sheet film, involve brief exposure time, and would have an adjustable stereo baseline and other special technical features. I'm really happy that my friend Kurt Gilde built this apparatus for me.

This unique camera's program allows me to transform my ideas about individual space and time constellations into "improbable" pictures.

So, how was the 3D affect achieved?
Basically, the stereo camera has got two lenses with a separate film frame for each lens.

Both lenses are synchronized. The distance between them is similar to human's "average" intra-ocular distance and therefore they "simulate" human binocular vision. Later on, when looking at the stereoscopic anaglyph images, the red and cyan glasses (chromatically opposite colors) make sure that the left eye is looking at the left half and the right eye is looking at the right half of a stereoscopic image. The brain fuses both views into the perception of a spatial scene.

Ferit Batir--hillbomb, Rinteln, Germany 2007.

denz_skateboarding3d_scene15-feritbatir_isocoatedv2The decision about what to emphasize in the image is determined in the actual taking of the photograph. But in later steps, when working on the computer, it's possible to influence the three-dimensional impression of a stereo photograph to a certain degree.

I make sure that the visual points around the eyes of the skaters in each of the two halves of a stereoscopic image correspond to each other. And this also means that I deliberately guide the focus away from the most dramatic sort of "3D effect." It was more important to me that the images--due to an intentionally selected, slight parallactic shift at their optical center--can also function as "two-dimensional images." Then the viewer can choose between two ways of looking at it: with or without 3D anaglyph glasses.

A 3D book of skateboarding conjures up so many opportunities to take purely skate photos. What made you include so many portraits in the book?
If you look back into skate history, what do you think of--a trick or a skater?

Mostly skaters, I suppose. But, how did Carhartt get involved? For Americans who equate Carhartt to farmers and blue collar workers in the States, could you explain what Carhartt clothing is like in Europe?
Carhartt in the States and Carhartt in Europe are two different things: Influenced by the roots of the farmers clothing, the European company "Work in Progress"--under the name of Carhartt "Streetwear"--produces completely different clothes and things. The name is the same, but everything else is different. You can't buy Carhartt Streetwear in the States. Since the brand started in Europe in 1994 they supported a lot of different cultures like skateboarding, music, arts…

Pontus Alv--Body Jar, Malmo, Sweden 2008.

denz_skateboarding3d_scene20-pontusalv_isocoatedv2When I started my project in 2005, I asked Lars Greiwe from the Carhartt Skateboarding Department to support my work. Throughout the four years, he always had an open ear for me and I really couldn't imagine better help or support! In my eyes, Lars is one of the good souls of skateboarding.

With the Krooked 3D video coming out, what are your thoughts for the future of the 3D medium in skateboard film and photography? Do you think there’s any future for it in skateboard videos or magazines?
The strength of three-dimensional processes is, at the same time, their great weakness. In many of the works I'm familiar with, the medium does actually force its way into the foreground, so that the form displaces the content, reducing the work to a mere "3D effect."

So, first of all I think the future of 3D depends on how respectful producers and artists deal with the content and second, how high the level of perfection is, in which the different old and new 3D techniques were used.

The Krooked 3D video trailer I saw on the web is produced in 3D anaglyph color and it was good fun watching it. But to be honest, I would prefer to see it on a cinema silver screen through circular polarization glasses, which would be super exciting for sure. The filming process is the same, so it would be possible to show it in different 3D techniques, but I don't know what their plan is.

Chris Pfanner--Kickflip, Barcelona 2006.


Some months ago I bought a small autostereoscopic monitor: On its screen you can see 3D content without any glasses, which is great, but you need 5 or more cameras to film the content … There is always something new and technologies develop very fast, but we still enjoy watching black and white movies.

My prediction: For cinema, video-games and TV our future will be hybrid 2D/3D next to each other, for media with photographic content like magazines and books there won't be any big change.

Do you have any other 3D projects you're planning on pursuing in the future?
Yes, I have many different ideas and art projects in my mind and would love to do another 3D book. But I fear this will take some time… I'm very perfectionistic. As subject, I won't do any more skateboarding related work. It will go in a different direction. Right now, I'm in the process of building a new 3D camera with Kurt Gilde. It will be gigantic. Again large format on 8 x 10 inch negative, but completely different. Kurt says it will be the only living dinosaur on this planet--I wonder what life looks like through the eyes of this terrible, powerful and wondrous animal.

Sebastian Denz studied Architecture at the University of Hanover, Photography and Fine Arts at the University of Applied Sciences, Arts in Hanover, and Photography at the University of Applied Sciences in Bielefeld. Denz was a visiting artist at the San Francisco Art Institute in 2008 and his works are in numerous collections. These images are from his recent book, SKATEBOARDING.3D, published by Prestel.